Friday, February 25, 2011

H2O Challenge a Success

For the past ten days I have been forsaking any beverage other than water as part of Calvary's 10-Day H2O Challenge. This is part of our Well Project to raise funds to build a well to provide clean drinking water for families in Honduras. The purpose of the challenge was two-fold: i) to save money on beverages and donate these to the Well Project; ii) to raise awareness for the project. But there were two other benefits I found over the past ten days.

Although it wasn't a typical fast, I did see much of the same benefits from fasting. Often I would deeply crave something that I was giving up. Rather than focus on that, or whine about it, this became a call to prayer. Thankfulness that I had instant access to cool clean water, and prayer that the many people who do not would soon have access to this life-giving water, and perhaps even to the Living Water Himself.

I also found it raised awareness not only among my friends but within myself. There is a big difference between a mental understanding of the needs of 1 billion people for clean water, or that we're going to tangibly help one village or school in Honduras - and knowing deep in your heart that right now there are real kids who may well die before the year's end from dysentery or disease from a lack of clean water this well will provide!

Frankly... I simply can't wait any longer to help out these families!! Real lives are at stake here, and working together we can make a profound difference! If you are able, please consider making a donation, of any size, to get us to our target of $5000 as soon as we possibly can! (I know not everyone participating in the challenge is able to do this. I just want to thank those who did for their sacrifice, and appreciate your prayers in all this!!)


Will you help children such as these?

Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
Mark 9:41 (NIV)

Calvary friends, there will be a table setup for special donations this Sunday and next. Others interested in helping out with the Well project can donate online too. To keep up with the story, follow the Dig Deeper blog.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Core Values for Spiritual Formation

Taking a peek inside "Fully Devoted" by Ortberg, Pederson and Poling, I found their excellent list of...

Ten Core Values for Spiritual Formation

Spiritual transformation...
... is essential, not optional, for Christ-followers.
... is a process, not an event.
... is God’s work, but requires my participation.
... involves those practices, experiences, and relationships that help me live intimately with Christ and walk as if He were in my place.
... is not a compartmentalized pursuit. God is not interested in my spiritual life; he’s interested in my life - all of it.
... can happen in every moment. It is not restricted to certain times or practices.
... is not individualistic, but takes place in community and finds expression in serving others.
... is not impeded by a person’s background, temperament, life situation, or season of life. It is available right now to all who desire it.
... and the means of pursuing it, will vary from one individual to another. Fully devoted followers are handcrafted, not mass produced.
... is ultimately gauged by an increased capacity to love God and people. Superficial or external checklists cannot measure it.
As I like to put it, discipleship that is biblical and effective must be transformational, relational, intentional, and missional.

(Fully Devoted, part of the Pursuing Spiritual Transformation series, is available at Amazon, including an inexpensive Kindle edition.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Review - Tithing

Tithing: Test Me in This is a book by Douglas LeBlanc in the 'Ancient Practices Series' from Thomas Nelson Publishers. (Other titles in the series include Fasting, Sabbath, The Sacred Meal, and others).

Tithing takes a very different approach from other books on stewardship or giving in the church. Rather than teach about the practice of tithing, the authors shares the stories of about a dozen tithers. These people come from extremely diverse backgrounds, from pastor to best-selling author, social activists, liberals and conservatives. Those telling their stories find joy in generous giving in the face of tremendous need and from a desire to glorify God and know Him better. My favorite quote from the book refers to tithing and fasting and other practices as "training wheels towards learning how to fully live in the Kingdom." The quote comes from Randy Alcorn, author of The Treasure Principle. His story was one of the more interesting I found within the book.

While I thought the book was interesting reading, I found three issues that were problems for me in enjoying the book more. The first is that all the book talks about are stories of people who tithe. Distancing the practice of tithing so fully from the principles of tithing and the teaching of Scripture weakened the book. The second issue (a bigger one for me but which other readers may not be concerned about) was that the great variety in the backgrounds of the story-tellers was at times very distracting. In several cases, the rationale for tithing or the beliefs of the tithers was so different from an evangelical perspective that it hurt the credibility of the story. Right practices for the wrong reasons, or with an understanding of God that doesn't match the Bible, fails to be convincing as a source of truth. The third challenge was that the individual stories often touched on tithing only tangentially, as we learned more about the backgrounds and ministries of the people than about their experiences with tithing. Note that the author was clear that these were his goals: stories, not doctrine; diversity, not one voice.

Overall, not bad but not a favorite. Your mileage may vary. Tithing is available at Amazon and other retailers.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers for this review as part of their Book Sneeze Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising".

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Review - Soulprint

Soulprint is all about you... and not about you at all. You were uniquely created to worship God in a way nobody else can. "Soulprint: Discovering your Divine Destiny" is the latest book by Mark Batterson and Multnomah Publishers, written to help you discover your God-given identity, in a way that isn't about you, but about your creator. Mark's other books include "In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day," "Wild Goose Chase," and "Primal." I recently shared a quote from Soulprint as I was just getting into the book.

Soulprint is written in five scenes which walk us through the unique and fascinating life of David. Each looks at a defining moment in David's life: facing down Goliath, standing over the defeated giant, sparing Saul's life in the cave, his coronation celebration and the wake of his affair. Along the way Batterson talks about compensatory skills, connecting the dots, control issues, altar making, integrity. One interesting theme in the book is that everything we face, everything we are, including our worst failures and deepest points of pain, help define who we are, building and revealing character. The end of the book contains a helpful set of discussion questions, as well as an excerpt from Primal.

I thought Soulprint was a very interesting read. It gave some great insights into the life of David, but also helps us as readers gain insights into our self, and the great God we serve. Like Batterson's other books, this one aims to inspire and does not fail to deliver.

Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny is available for sale at Multnomah, at Amazon, or other retailers. You can download a sample chapter, or watch a video trailer about the book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review as part of their Blogging For Books Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising".

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The H2O Challenge for Ten Days

For the next ten days my family and I, along with about a hundred friends at Calvary Baptist Church, are going to be giving up coffee, soda, and other beverages to drink only water. Drinking water, safe water, is a privilege that almost one billion people do not share - and we're doing something about it! The Well Project Calvary is seeking to raise $5000 to dig a well for children and families in a village in Honduras, in partnership with Living Water International. For the H2O challenge from Feb. 14th to Feb. 23rd, we will take the money that we normally spend on coffee, soda and other drinks, and give that to the Well Project. We'll being doing more over the course of a year, but this is a great start! If you're on Facebook, check out theH2OChallenge or The Well Project - and check out this video on the 10 day Challenge...

10 Days from Living Water International on Vimeo.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Cut the Chit Chat

Yesterday I got to talk about developing spiritual friendships - relationships where you not only talk about the everyday things you enjoy together, but regularly and intentionally share and ask what God is doing in your lives. In his blog a few weeks ago Mac Lake had a great post on the value of this, along with some excellent questions for getting the ball rolling. (Thanks for the reminder on this post from the Stirred Up Leadership blog)

Mac writes...

Spiritual leadership isn’t just about accomplishing God given results, it’s also about caring for the souls of those we lead along the way. As leaders we are accustomed to meeting with our direct reports and talking to them about action plans, priorities and results, but we often neglect talking to them about the condition of their soul. While we don’t have to be their spiritual accountability partner or best friend it’s wise to stay in touch with the condition of the soul of those we lead. Aubrey Malphurs, one of my professors at Dallas Seminary, used to have a plaque on his desk that read, “Let’s cut through the chit chat, what’s God doing in your life?” Okay that may be a little to direct if you’re not that close to someone but you get the idea. For some leaders inquiring into the condition of their followers soul can be awkward or uncomfortable. So having a few good questions can help make this more natural and more effective. Here are a few…

  • What’s the freshest thing God has been doing in your life lately?
  • How full is your emotional, physical and spiritual tanks?   Empty, quarter filled, half, three quarters or full.
  • What theme does God seem to be emphasizing in this season of your life?
  • What are you looking for God to do in your life in the next couple of months?
  • What’s God been saying to you through His Word recently?
  • What passion is God stirring in your soul recently?
  • What season best describes your spiritual life right now: Winter, spring summer or fall?  Why?
  • What’s exciting you the most in your spiritual journey these days?
How can you ask such a question this week?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Spiritual Friendships

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)

I recently described to a friend a desire for an organic process for encouraging our development as fully-devoted followers of Christ that is relational, authentic, seeks transformation, and occurs during the everyday life of people rather than in some church program. He smiled and said, "You know, there is a simple term for this. It's called friendship." Hmmm... he's got a point. But I know that many of us have friendships in which there is no discussion of spiritual matters, much less intentional effort on growing as disciples. What's missing? In a nutshell - what we need more of are Christ-Centered friendships in which the Holy Spirit is acknowledged and active. In other words, a spiritual friendship.

Douglas Rumford in the book 'Soul Shaping' defines Spiritual Friendship as “a Christ-centered, intentional relationship between at least two people, where these individuals focus on the nurture of each others spiritual life. This sort of friendship does not require one to be an expert, but simply to be spiritual peers who regularly come together and commit themselves to growing in Christ.”

In Acts 18 we see the story of Priscilla and Aquila, how Paul connected with these fellow tentmakers, built a friendship, shared the gospel and discipled these Jewish Christians to the point where they could effectively share the gospel and disciple others. In fact, they did just this with a scholar named Apollos, who himself had a great impact for the Kingdom. Rewind the story, and we see that Paul himself found an amazing spiritual friend in Barnabas, who stood up for him and worked alongside Paul for a year in Antioch (Acts 9 and 11). Thus we see spiritual friendship providing tremendous benefit for these individuals and for the church - among seekers, new believers, growing Christians, and for leadership development.

Developing spiritual friendships isn't rocket science, but since it involves people it can be messy. It is first of all a friendship, in which the two (or more) decide together to nurture one another towards Christ-likeness, becoming more intentional about what they talk about and do together. Here are some factors that enhance the effectiveness of developing fruitful spiritual friendships:
  • Openness (transparency and honesty)
  • Trust
  • Regular time spent together
  • Desire to grow
  • Intentionality
  • Listening
  • Prayer
The benefits of becoming more intentional in your relationships in encouraging one another to grow in Christ are real, and are available to all believers. What is your next step in developing a spiritual friendship?

Spiritual Friendships was a message I shared at Calvary Baptist Church on Feb. 6, 2011.
Download the Audio MP3 of the sermon.
View or download a PDF of the notes.